Artist of the Month: Pippa Toole

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Illustrator, DIY enthusiast and die hard Cramps fan, Pippa Toole is a Brighton based artist whose devilish illustrations of powerful women and subcultures symbols come in every form you could possibly want. From prints to badges, wall hangings to hand painted clothing, her delightfully quirky pieces radiate badass vibes that make our inner Lydia Deetz want to break free! We caught up with Pippa to learn more about her views on the appropriation of artist's work, her collaboration with Dr Martens and what she has in store for us next - Enjoy!

Interview by Priyanka Rai

Hi Pippa! For those who don't know, can you tell us a bit about who you are and the work you do?

Hello, I'm predominantly an illustrator but more recently I've been customising leather and making things using textiles and embroidery. Most of the time I like to listen to Devo and draw angry women, and I love dogs.

You currently live in Brighton; a city known for its creative art scene, has living there played a part in your progression as an artist?

Yeah, I guess so, it's where I did my illustration degree and I decided to stay afterwards because there's nowhere else I'd want to live right now. It's a positive place with lots of like minded people. I'd actually say Brighton has kinda been lacking in a strong illustration scene, unless I'm really out of the loop. My friends at Family store who are also involved in the Brighton Illustration fair are doing a great job at bringing contemporary illustration and design to town.

A lot of your work tends to revolve around bad luck omens, biker gangs, and women's punk culture, where did your interest in subcultures symbols begin?

It sounds cliche but I've always been into subculture themes one way or another. I was a goth kid growing up and my sister was a punk, so I've always been around that stuff. I love music and a lot of my interests stemmed from that. If I'd never heard The Cramps I don't know where I'd be now!

I absolutely love the badass babe vibe of your pieces, especially in the She Devil prints! How important is it to use your platform as an artist to showcase political agency in your illustrations?

I don't make work with a political agenda, I guess I just draw women who often look powerful, angry or confident. Women being the main focus shouldn't be a thing and it isn't deliberately political but if it comes across in a positive light and makes people think differently then that's good.

I've seen you speak out about larger companies copying designs. As a freelance artist, how do you feel about the concept of fast fashion and the appropriation of an artist's work?

It sucks! All that stuff with Zara copying Tuesday Bassen really brought the issue to light and how often it happens. I think people just see illustration and design as disposable and not a real job. I find it baffling that other designers and artists think it's acceptable to copy, no matter who it's for or how much they're getting paid, you shouldn't be a designer if you can't come up with your own ideas.

Your work comes in a variety of different formats; prints, posters, badges as well as hand painted custom clothes. Are you looking to expand the mediums and formats you use in the future?

Yeah for sure. Sometimes working digitally can be a bit jarring for me and I get very easily distracted but I find this doesn't happen when I'm making something physical. I've been working on lots of hand embroidered fabric flags and I'd love to look into a way to get them mass produced. I'd like to do some screen printed apparel too.

As a lover of all things DIY, I'm a big fan of your customised leather jackets and skirts, where do you source your clothing from?

A lot of it is old clothes of mine or stuff that people have given me to paint on. Otherwise, I just look on eBay. I'm always on the hunt for second-hand biker jackets but they're always so expensive so that's why I started sourcing other items like skirts.

You'll be appearing at Dr Martens Customisations Sessions in the future! How did your collaboration with the company first come about?

I have worked in the Brighton store since it opened a few years ago so that's how it all started. The first items I customised were for a couple of charity raffles and from there I was asked to participate in the 'Illustrator of the Month' feature on the Dr Martens blog. I got chatting to someone who works for the company who liked my work and I actually ended up doing a boot design which was meant to be released last Autumn but never made the final cut! I have the prototype hidden away under my bed.

I'm a big fan of the work you've done in collaboration with Dr Martens, especially your hand painted leather heart bag and Polley shoes! Do you have an illustration or project you're most proud of?

A few years ago me and some friends exhibited at Pick Me Up at Somerset House and I really felt like a proper artist at that point, it felt like such a big deal and was a really positive thing to do so soon after graduating. We were a bit like underdogs there, definitely the most DIY and un polished which I think was kinda cool!

Are you working on any projects at the moment that you could tell us about?

Currently, I'm working on some designs that will be printed on tote bags and banners for a couple of different people. I'm exhibiting at the Brighton Illustration Fair in October so I'm starting work on some new stuff for that and will (hopefully) be doing a Halloween themed banner making work workshop with Lucy Sherston which should be fun!

Keep up to date with what Pippa comes up with next on Instagram, and check out what funky creations are available to buy here!